Crate “Training” – Blessing or Abuse??
To Crate Train or Not To Crate Train…That Is The Question~
You may think that putting your pet in a crate is mean or inhumane and that it might cause your pet to resent you or to develop some type of psychological damage, keeping in mind that dogs view the world somewhat differently than humans. Or you may think it sounds practical. But either way crate training is a commonly suggested training method, so something to be given a thought for many. Yet no matter what your choice, leaving your dog in a crate for extended periods of time or daily is inadvisable, and you should keep the words ‘training’ and ‘temporary confinement’ in mind, if crate training is your choice.
A dog crate is a cage usually made of wire or molded plastic whose purpose is to provide confinement for reasons of security, safety, housebreaking, protection of household goods, travel or illness. And your dog sees the crate as a room of his very own – a “safety zone”, if used correctly. The crate can help to satisfy the “den instinct” inherited from when his ancestors and relatives were den-dwellers. Most pets will feel secure, not frustrated once accustomed to his crate. Your pet wants to please you and you want to enjoy him. The crate can help you in achieving a better relationship with your pet by preventing unwanted behavior when you aren’t available to supervise him.
The positives with the help of a crate are:
- You can enjoy peace of mind when having to leave your puppy or young dog alone, knowing that nothing can be soiled or destroyed and that he is comfortable, safe, and not developing bad habits.
- You can housebreak your pet more quickly by using the close confinement to motivate your pet to wait until taken outside, since canines naturally avoid soiling their den.
- You can travel with your pet without risk of the the dog getting loose and becoming lost or interfering with safe driving.
- Your dog can enjoy the security and privacy of den of his own to which he can retreat when tired or stressed.
- Your dog can avoid much of the fear and confusion caused by your reaction to problem behavior.
- Since he can more easily adapt to staying in unfamiliar places as long as he has his familiar “safety zone” along, your pet can be included in family outings, instead of being left behind alone.
The negatives of using a crate are:
- Too Much Time In The Crate… A crate isn’t a magical solution. If not used correctly, a dog can feel trapped and frustrated, so other arrangements should be made to meet his physical and emotional needs. Pets can’t and shouldn’t be expected to control their bladders and bowels for extended periods of time.
- Whining. If your dog whines or cries while in the crate at night, it may be difficult to decide whether he’s whining for attention and to be let out of the crate, or whether he needs to be let outside to eliminate. If you’ve followed the proper training procedures, then your dog hasn’t been rewarded for whining in the past by being released from his crate. So, if that is the case your dog is just testing you and he’ll probably stop whining soon. Yelling at him or pounding on the crate will only make things worse, because that is a form of attention, so just try ignoring him again. But if the whining continues after you’ve ignored him again for several minutes, use the phrase he associates with going outside to eliminate. If he responds and becomes excited, take him outside. And, this should be a trip with a purpose, not play time. If you’re then convinced that your dog doesn’t need to eliminate, the best response is to ignore him until he stops whining. Don’t give in (within reason); if you do, you’ll teach your dog to whine loud and long to get what he wants. If you’ve progressed gradually through the training steps and haven’t done too much too fast, you’ll be less likely to encounter this problem. If the problem becomes unmanageable, you may need to start the crate training process over again.
- Using A Crate For Separation Anxiety. Attempting to use the crate as a remedy for separation anxiety won’t solve the problem. Separation anxiety problems can only be resolved with counter-conditioning and desensitization procedures. A crate may prevent your dog from being destructive, but he could actually injure himself attempting to escape from the crate. You may want to consult a professional animal-behavior specialist for help rather than try the crate to solve this problem.
Dogs are social animals. Place the crate in an area where the family spends a lot of time – kitchen. family room, etc. The top of the crate can serve as extra shelf or table space. At night, move your puppy’s crate into your bedroom so you can hear him if he needs to go out.
A young puppy should have no problem accepting the crate as his place. When you first bring a puppy home, crying is caused, not by the crate, but by adjusting to an unfamiliar household or being newly separated from his mother. Do not reward barking or whining with attention! If you are sure he doesn’t need to eliminate, ignore him until he is quiet, then praise him or take him out of the crate. Do not leave meals in the crate or feed your puppy immediately prior to confining him. Most puppies will spill water left in the crate. Do leave a safe chew toy in the crate for your pet. Close your pet in the crate whenever he must be left alone or can’t be closely supervised by a responsible person.
Never crate your pet longer than you know he can wait to eliminate, and definitely less than 4 hour intervals during the day. If you occasionally must be gone longer than this, place the crate with the door open in an enclosed area such as a bathroom or laundry room, or kitchen area. Place newspapers on the floor of the room to facilitate clean-up. Your puppy should soon stop eliminating overnight and then may be crated in his regular place.
Crate training puppies over 6-months old may be more difficult. Therefore the dog’s first association with the crate should be pleasant. And there are some animals (usually adults) that can or will not tolerate this form of confinement. A few will show no desire to keep the crate clean. Be sensitive to you pet’s needs!!
Crates can be purchased at pet stores, department stores, and from pet supply catalogs, some stores even have used crates for sale that they have taken in trade. Look for a wire crate that includes a removable metal floor pan. Plastic crates can also be used, although some dogs will chew the plastic and it is much more confining for your pet (unless it is only used for traveling).
Also, look for one with a smooth floor for your pet’s comfort and line the bottom with a comfortable pad, once they are house potty trained. Purchase crate large enough for your pet to stretch out on its side and to sit or stand erect. If you have a puppy, it is more economical to buy a wire crate that will accommodate him as an adult, then partition it to the right size. A movable wire or pegboard partition can be made or purchased. Too large a crate can undermine housebreaking because your pet may eliminate at one end of the crate and lie down at the other. For bedding, use an old blanket or buy a washable crate pad. Depending on size and construction, a new crate may cost $45 – $180. This is a bargain compared to the cost of replacing a sofa, woodwork, or carpeting. But the ultimate goal is to use the crate for travel, special need times, and an available spot for your pet to voluntarily retreat to; not as an every day area of confinement. And a few chewed base boards or carpet corners are sometimes the trade-off for having a completely loyal best friend, just like a few scratches in the furniture and spill marks on the carpet are the trade off of small human additions to your family. When you are old it is their love that you will remember, not the small messes and inconveniences.
Use a crate for your pet, if needed and if it works for them, but don’t abuse its use.
- Children should be taught that the crate is a special room for the pet and that they should not pester the dog or puppy when it is in the crate or use the crate as a playhouse.
- The use of a dog crate is NOT RECOMMENDED for a dog regularly left alone all day, although some individual animals can tolerate it. If it is attempted:
- The pet must be well exercised before and after crating.
- The crate must be equipped with a heavy, non-tip dish of water.
- Your pet should get lots of attention and complete freedom each night.
- If you do not have time to take a puppy or dog outside to eliminate and exercise as recommended here, you should reconsider getting a dog as a pet, or at least hiring a dog walker. Crate or no crate, any dog consistently denied the attention and companionship it craves, may still find ways to express bored anxiety, and stress, and regular confinement for long periods of time actually cause stress, anxiety and even aggression in your dog.
- Always ask yourself… Is my choice, for using the crate or other decisions, for my convenience or for the well-being of my friend?
I myself am not an advocate of crate training, but it is a viable tool if used correctly. But if used incorrectly, it can be abusive.
Sources: Humane Society articles and Wikipedia
A Cute Photo From CuteOverload
Two species getting along great in their crate!